Coe in Fresh Storm Over Controversial Links With Nike

Sebastian Coe was under pressure amid claims of a conflict of -interest over his role with Nike -after emails emerged suggesting that he held talks with the sportswear giant over the award of the World Championships to Eugene.

Published: 25th November 2015 07:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th November 2015 07:39 AM   |  A+A-

Sebastian Coe was under pressure last night (Tuesday) amid claims of a conflict of -interest over his role with Nike -after emails emerged suggesting that he held talks with the sportswear giant over the award of the World Championships to Eugene.

Coe denied lobbying Lamine -Diack, his predecessor as International Association of Athletics -Federations president for the 2021 event to be staged near Nike's headquarters in Oregon after the BBC obtained correspondence appearing to show that he kept the company informed about Diack's plans for a bidding process that was scrapped this year.

That resulted in Eugene being awarded the championships despite interest from Gothenburg in Sweden, a decision which sparked outrage among the latter's bid team and claims of a "complete lack of process" from the head of European Athletics.

Gothenburg's bid leader Bjorn Eriksson, a former head of Interpol, yesterday demanded "an explanation" from Coe over the contents of an internal Nike email the BBC said it had obtained.

The message, dated Jan 30, was said to be from Craig Masback, business affairs director for Nike's Global Sports Marketing, to the Eugene bid leaders Vin Lananna and Robert Fasulo, who run TrackTown USA, which is closely associated with the sportswear giant.

Masback was also chief executive for USA Track and Field for more than 10 years before joining Nike in 2008.

The email, entitled "2021"; and in which Coe is referred to as "Seb", was said to read: "I spoke with Seb this morning. We covered several topics but I asked specifically about 2021. He made clear his support for 2021 in Eugene but made equally clear he had reached out to Diack specifically on this topic and got a clear statement from Diack that, 'I am not going to take any action at the April meeting [in Beijing] to choose a 2021 site'."

It was at that meeting of the IAAF's council that Diack did the opposite and asked his colleagues to award the championships -directly to Eugene without a contest, which they did by 23 votes to one, with one abstention.

Coe - who has been under pressure to end his pounds 100,000-a-year contract with Nike since being elected in August as IAAF president - has openly admitted voting for Eugene, which is not the first city to be awarded the world championships in such circumstances.

However, Eriksson claimed that he had been personally assured by both Coe and Diack - who was -arrested this month on suspicion of bribery and corruption - that Gothenburg would get a chance to bid for 2021.

"The idea we don't even get the chance to deliver an offer, we don't get the chance to be judged," he said. "That makes me still furious."

Coe insisted that he believed there would be a bidding process until Diack asked the council to vote for Eugene in April, shortly -after it lost the race for the 2019 championships to Doha.

"I did not lobby anyone on behalf of the Eugene 2021 bid," Coe said. "After their narrow defeat for the 2019 championships, I encouraged them to re-enter another bidding cycle as they had a strong bid.

"My views on all the bids for the 2019 World Athletics Championships [including Eugene] are a matter of record as I was chair of the evaluation commission for those bids. All my interests were, and continue to be, fully declared to the IAAF ethics committee and listed at the House of Lords."

Coe said that Diack had made a convincing "political and financial" case for taking the event to Eugene, but he added: "The process for -bidding is already being reviewed as part of a wide range of reforms currently being prepared."

Eriksson said of the 2021 outcome: "It smells and it has to be investigated. That's for the sport, for everybody involved."

He added of Coe's relationship with Nike, which dates back to 1978 and saw him become a global adviser to the firm in 2012: "I'd say it's a major problem."

Lananna has previously denied that Nike or Coe had anything to do with the 2021 bidding process other than the latter's vote as an IAAF council member.

The latest claims will hardly help Coe's efforts to clean up the IAAF after it became engulfed in an unprecedented corruption scandal.

The IAAF council will meet tomorrow in Monaco to discuss fur-ther reforms to the organisation, senior figures from which stand -accused of taking bribes to cover up doping, most notably among Russian athletes.

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